The Washington Post

Lisa de Moraes' TV Column Live

Mar 02, 2012

Post TV columnist Lisa de Moraes chatted about the about all the drama, comedy and heartbreak of the world of television. See below to see what questions readers brought up and what Lisa had to say about in response.

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Pookie, Has Brian Grazer's production crew released any explanation for the audio problems during the Oscars? The buzzing/feedback from Billy Crystal's mic and from the presenters' mics was so distracting that I had to stop listening to the broadcast through my stereo speakers and switch over to my television speakers. The noise was still there, but not as obvious. I realize that live television can be challenging, but you'd think they could fix the problem at some point during the nearly three hour broadcast. Maybe Brian should lay off the vodka shots before the broadcast.

I did speak with the show's director Don Mischer and apparently the feed out of the theater and over to ABC in New York was fine... What happened in New York is anybody's guess -- some people were reporting the problem continued on their ABC channel even into the next day....

Pookie, I was SO excited to hear that Acorn Media Group acquired the Agatha Christie library that I ... zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz.

Hey -- if I hadn't found out whether the Agatha Christie crunchy gravel TV movies for PBS had found a new benefactor -- what with its UK producer having financial troubles --  my mother would never speak to me again...

Pookie - I'm heartbroken over the passing of Davy Jones. Do you know if any DC-area stations plan to run a Monkees marathon anytime soon? I thought that TV Land might, but I couldn't find anything on their schedule.

Not TVLand but Tribune's digital network Antenna TV is planning just such a marathon on Saturday. The tribute will start with a noon telecast of the Monkees theatrical film "head" which, as I'm sure you know, is considered a tour de force rumination on free will and also stars Victor Mature,  Dennis Hopper, Annette Funnicello, Frank Zappa, and Sonny Liston.  Anyone who still wants to see more Monkees after that can then watch the 58 "The Monkees" episodes,  which will be followed by a repeat run of "head" to polish off any survivors. I believe you can get Antenna TV in Washington if you have a digital antenna -- it's through CW, or channel 50.2.

Meanwhile, less imaginatively, BIO channel has announced that tonight it will telecast "Biography: The Monkees" at 8, followed by "BIO Remembers: Davy Jones" at 9...


.but I'll keep you posted if we hear anything more during chat, and on blog after that. Meanwhile, I wrote this about Davy Jones's appearance at last summer's TV Press Tour -- bet all those critics who were so sniffy and eye-rolly to him are feeling pretty bad now. Or not.

I feel like a lot of the stories I read the day after the Oscars (including yours) talked about the ratings in relation to what happened during the broadcast. I think this happens with all big, live shows (Superbowl, for example), but I'm confused as to why it would. How can we say that the ratings were high because Angelina Jolie's leg was going nuts or JLo maybe showed a little too much? People don't watch knowing that's going to happen. Hoping, maybe. It just really struck me this year that those things were being used to explain higher than expected ratings and wondering if there's more to this ratings game than us non-industry types understand.

Ah -- glad you asked! These days, people watch trophy shows while also communicating with others via mobile devices, etc.  -- tweeting, etc. as the show is happening... yes, people who weren't watching the Oscars learned about Angelina Jolie's leg, and JLo's left nipple, and Billy Crystal's blackface schtick,  as the show was happening, and tuning in....

I keep trying to like "Suburgatory," but I just can't seem to warm up to it. The father and daughter are likable enough, but the town's well-off freaks and self-regarders fall pretty flat comedically. And I find the credits off-putting -- the father-daughter shots are a little sexed-up and vaguely creepy. Or am I just one sick pup, Pookie?

You mean Miley-Cyrus-photo-shoot-with-her-dad creepy? Or just vaguely uncomfortable making? I like the classroom scenes particularly.

How is it that NBC pulls together an strong cast for such an implausible dud of a show? (Jason Isaacs, Cherry Jones, BD Wong (ya think he ever tires of being a shrink?) I have so many problems with this beyond the ridiculous going nowhere premise, but I can't figure out how those three actors in particular were lured to do this show. I mean it. Please explain. If anyone wants to see Jason Isaacs really act, they need to watch the "Jackson Brodie" mysteries on PBS. He'll break your heart.

I enjoyed it more than you, but then I watch TV differently than do many people....In its defense, "Awake" did manage to nearly double its lead-in audience -- though this is not saying much, given that its leadin , "Up All Night" only averaged 3.5 million viewers.  But yes, it has a great cast, and it's from Kyle Killen, who created "Lone Star" -- last year's drama about a guy who was leading two parallel lives... Oh wait,  wasn't that cancelled after one or two episodes?

Is there a video available of "Oliver!" with Davy Jones as The Artful Dodger? I saw a brief clip on TV news the night he died, taken from the Ed Sullivan Show (ironically the same one where the Beatles made their US debut), and until then had no idea that Jones was in the Broadway production.

Yes, he was an actor first and got "cast" into the group Monkees -- which was an entirely fabricated pop band for the sake of the Tv series. He says -- as he did again when he appeared at last summer's press tour -- that The Monkees killed his acting career. On the other hand, The Monkees made him a rich man...

Is anyone still watching? Honestly, Im not anymore, and it seems like everybody I know who ever watched it, except for elderly semi-shut-ins, have given up, as well. I get that my social circle, including the shut-ins, aren't exactly Nielsen-representative, but I gotta' believe that I'm seein a trend in my own personal microcosm that translates to real-world ratings.

Last night's "American Idol" broadcast was the No. 1 ranked broadcast show among 18-34 year olds, teens, etc. by a big margin....That said, it's numbers in younger demos are not as big as they used to be which is what gets extrapolated into gags about only elderly semi-shut-in watching. The 18-34 year old and teen numbers on virtually every 11 year old show are not what they used to part that's because young viewers, despite their best efforts, are getting one year older every year...  And, young viewers are more likely to move on to the next bright shiny light -- it's kind of like dating in high school...

Pookie, while watching last night's very entertaining "30 Rock" a commercial came on explaining how absorbant my feminine hygiene product might be in the setting of something like a political rally. Watching the show with my teenage sons. The commercial was so offensive. Is there nothing we can do?

Off the top of my head,  Id' suggest writing to NBC, or the FCC, complaining -- though, judging by the number of feminine hygiene product ads on TV these days it appears they've gotten the all-clear from the FCC and TV networks' Standards and Practices departments -- in much the same way they've given thumbs-up to erectile dysfunction ads.  The bad news is that your sons are among  only  114,000 teens in the ENTIRE country who watched "30 Rock" last night and I'm guessing some of those 114,000 teens were female --  which means you're not going to be able to start a letter-writing campaign of millions of outraged parents of teenaged boys who were made uncomfortable by the ad on "30 Rock"  last night....Alternatively, you might consider writing to the company that produces the product, thanking them profusely for advertising in "30 Rock."  Last night's show averaged just 3.8 million viewers of any age, which means  it's practically a miracle this show is still on the air. Have you considered that if the feminine hygiene product wasn't being advertised on "30 Rock" the show might not survive?  Is this a price you're willing to pay to keep this show on the air? Trust me, if this show was filled with only ads for things of interest to teenaged guys -- like "The Daily Show" and "Tosh.0," NBC would be very very happy because it would mean the show was popular in that demographic group and young guys are the Holy Grail of the television industry...  This is the ad they could sell in the show. And, in conclusion, you can always DVR the show and zap out the ads, or watch the show with your sons on Hulu, where it will have far fewer ad breaks, decreasing the likelihood of another feminine hygiene ambush. And, I'm told teenaged boys are easily distracted --  try holding up a picture of Daniel Tosh whenever a feminine hygiene ad breaks out...  I'm truly sorry I cannot be of more help.


I thought Bristol purchased a house in Arizona - but the show is still taking place in Alaska?

I'm not up to date on Palin real estate....

"Revenge" is going away for a month, pookie. What am I supposed to do in the meantime?

watch "GCB" -- debuting Sunday...or, on April 24, CW is debuting a Canadian drama about people voted most likely to succeed in high school who naturallyl all moved to Hollywood to break into the industry and are living together in the Motel of Misery on the Boulevard of Broken Dreams. It's called "The LA Complex" ....

My husband loves The River. I think it kind of sucks. Who is right?

I have good news. You're both right! It's midseason's most craptastic new series. I just love it...

THIS was a serious issue for me. I plan my summers around Masterpiece Mystery with Poirot and Marple heading it. I LOVE Agatha Christie!!!! Whew, better now.

Mom? Is that you?

....he was a jockey, according to the obits. Which explains why he owned thoroughbreds. I had no idea he was only 5' 3", which explains why he was a jockey as a kid.

Yes, he was a jockey, hence his love of racehorses, which he also discussed during his press tour appearance...a real renaissance man....

How times have changed. Nowadays being in a boy-band might well be a stepping stone to bigger and better things in a show-biz career, because he was already a really famous celebrity (cf. Daniel Radcliffe on Broadway in "Equus," then "How to Succeed..."), not to mention Scarlett Johansson, Julia Roberts, et al.

Wait, Carlett Johansson was in a boy band? Lucky other boy-band members!

Let's see, there was American Idol and then The Office and whole bunch of Brit shows got Americanized for US TV. Any chance there will be an American version of Downton Abbey. They could even use the same cast since it appears all English actors do American accents. All they have to do is change the names. I can see it now, "Dinner is served, Lady Snooki"

and Shirly MacLaine could play her mother on that version too....

Everyone knows that The Walking Dead is the best show on TV right? Right?

Now you're just baiting me.....

Here I've been cheerfully rooting against the wooden Kat McPhee, and now they're making Ivy seem like a witch overnight. I don't like them trying to force me to root for the one they want me to root for.

Ooh, I've not yet seen this week's episode. I need more details!

Saw that feminine hygiene ad. It is part of a series that makes fun of the tampon ads of the past 30 years, filled with butterflies and white dresses, and whose message was so oblique that young kids had to ask what it is about. You are correct, in that this style of ad is totally a response to the ads for ED products. Will never forget the first time I saw a Cialis ad while watching golf with my elderly father. As the tag line started "when the moment is right", my Dad answered "which bathtub will you use". Much to my mortification.

Sounds like your dad has a marvelous sense of humor. Which I think is the best approach to watching feminine hygiene ads  with teenaged boys...

Admittedly, I am not the demographic they want, even though I have lots more money than all the 18 to 24-year-olds living at home in this economy. And I must say there aren't too many duds in year's top crop---getting rid of half of them in the first performance week is a good idea. In past seasons, we would have had Brielle and Reed to deal with for another four weeks at least.

Yes, this crop is not bad, though I could lose Elise and, frankly, Heejun, without shedding a tear...

With the show having been off the air for nearly 18 months, will AMC run any previous episodes to remind us of where we were before getting so rudely interrupted?

I hope so, because it's become a distant memory...

Seriously, what kind of ratings is Bristol Palin's new reality TV series likely to garner? She's so last year.

Yes, this show announcement would have been a much bigger deal had it happened shortly after her run on "Dancing" rather than a year and a half ago. The company that's airing this show did in fact try to get her into a reality docu soap to cash in on her "Dancing" popularity -- it was that show in which she and her son were going to live with Kyle Massey and his brother. But it never aired.. And so, another network of the same media company has now "bought" this series about Bristol and her son, but not living with Kyle. It sounds like they're just trying to salvage the original deal...

Who has six hours of their life to devote to American Idol? I'm one of your merry band of AI column readers/commenters (part of the fun of watching is reading what you write the next day) and while it's true that if I'm clever I can get a lot of housework done during the lengthy commercial breaks, but really, I had to draw the line somewhere, so I skipped Tuesday night. I have to admit though, that Jimmy Iovine and his pithy reality checks made last night worth watching (with plenty of time in between to clean the kitchen). And that America has ears this year and didn't put through anyone who couldn't sing on key for an entire song. That's got to be a first in Idol history.

Jimmy Iovine was fantastic last night -- not only critiquing the Idolettes but, hilarioiusly, critiquing the juges, who had fawned over the guys on Tuesday and not done much better with the girls on Wednesday's show....Seems Iovine's role on this show will be not only to mentor the singers, but to mentor the judge as well. He is the saving of this show...

I'm hoping that "The Finder" will not turn out to be yet another victim of Fox's "Wonderfalls Syndrome"--13 great weeks and out. Any predictions?

Fox announced today they're moving "Finder" to Fridays in April. This is not a good sign since Friday is Fox's Saturday. But the network had always intended "Finder" to fill the Thursday timeslot only while "Bones" lead Emily Deschanel was on maternity leave -- that's why "Finder" was introduced first as an episode of "Bones."  So "Bones" is returning to its Thursday timeslot -- though not for long. Fox has announced they're moving it to Mondays in the spring...

Opened my eyes, Pookie! In talking about the "golden age" of sitcoms, i decided to give "Happy Endings" a try. I had figured it was terrible and just given plum spot after MF, which was hysterical this week as usual. In the span of a week, I have gone back and watched all ~two seasons of HE, and it it too is hysterical. While MF still sets the bar on sitcoms right now, HE is nipping at its heels IMHO. I don't know what it's ratings are, but in case there are others out there who aren't watching it, WATCH. Thank me later. (No I am not Damon Wayans, Jr.'s Mom, or publicist.)

Thanks, Not Damon Wayans Jr's Mom!

Nothing again Edwardian North Yorkshire or Madison Avenue during the Kennedy administration, but would kind of like a non-low-budget-SciFy-channel TV series set in the future. Here's an idea, a TV series like '30 Rock' or 'Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip' about the behind the scenes of the TV show being made in that vague not-too-distant-future but TV show itself is set in 2012...

I love it....let's all write it... It can't turn out any worse than "Heroes".....right?

Pookie, is it too soon to start a pool for next year's Oscar host(s)? I would love to see Hugh Laurie and Stephen Fry, but I would settle for Tiny Fey and Chris Rock.

I have already decided it needs to be Jimmy Kimmel....

Hi Lisa--how well do you think this "Fashion Star" thing will do on NBC? As much sympathy as I have for the network that keeps "Parks & Rec" on the air, I don't think I can stand a second more of the Jessica Simpson exposure that the show's success would bring.

Jessica Simpson as fashion expert -- the funniest comedy on NBC's lineup. This show doesn't need to do ratings -- it only needs to sell clothes to be a success. It will be a success...

I watched only about an hour of Whitney's funeral, but every time Dionne Warwick got up to the pulpit, the camera immediately pulled back and there was a shot from the choir loft. When she spoke, it was just a disembodied voice. It then zoomed up to the pulpit after she left. What was that about? Did she request that?

You mean like they always used to go to soft focus in later Doris Day movies, or whenever Joan Collins was in camera range on "Dynasty" etc.... I have no idea but your theory seems sound.. anyway, I like it...

Mike Nesbiths's mother invented white-out

Seriously? Is he the Monkee who made good after the show?

LISA DE MORAES : Wait, Carlett Johansson was in a boy band? Lucky other boy-band members! Yes: It was Scarlett's twin brother Carlett, known as Carl to his friends.

Am I to be mocked because my brain works too fast for my fingers? (that's very funny!)

Happy Endings is Ah-Mah-Zing!

.. it is...

The LA Times posted this YouTube link yesterday. As a long-time Davy fan, I am not convinced this is him. He would have been 18 at the time, surely his voice would have changed, and he sounds nothing like the Davy who joined the Monkees two years later.

How brave of you to admit being a long time Davy fan...

She got Karen kicked out of two different numbers for being too loud and/or noticeable. Three members of the chorus, er, ensemble, became Karen's pals for no apparent reason and helped her learn how to be an ordinary background person. But coming attractions show Ivy smacking her down hard next week.

Too bad.. Katharine McPhee as victim is even more annoying than Katharine McPhee as ingenue...

I want George Clooney!!!

I too would watch three hours of George Clooney in a tux...

Seriously, this year they are scraping the bottom of the barrel with some of these supposed "stars". I don't think I can stomach THAT much Sherri Shepherd in one sitting. She thinks she's hilarious when in reality she just makes herself look foolish. And the sad thing is, I can't even really think of the majority of the cast off the top of my head. They'd better never lose the professional dancers or I won't know who anyone is.

And yet, I'm guessing lots of "Dancing" viewerd did not know who Kyle Massey was before the show and yet he turned out to be the best part of that season....

Pookie: Can you pass a message to David Milch? Why, oh why, do all of your characters have to speak in the same clipped Milchian patois? Doesn't matter whether they're horse track patrons in L.A., surfers in San Diego or cowpokes in the Old West, they all speak like Andy Sipowicz. Try mixing it up once in awhile.

Why would he mess with a formula that's made him a very rich man?

Call it "The One Percent" and have it feature people with summer homes in Rhode Island and the Hamptons, who secretly manipulate the government and conspire to keep the rest of us in line. But because it's America, they just can't find good help.

I think it's called "Revenge" and it's on ABC...

I hear things are not looking too good for "Cougar Town." At what point do producers give up trying to find a new audience and just create the few remaining episodes for their own satisfaction? I could see it being incredibly liberating to know your show's gonna bite the dust.

you have just described this season of the show

Next years judges .... Randy back in his seat on the left, JLo for the caring/what's she wearing factor, and Iovine for the actual judging.

Iovine would be great sitting at the table but I get the feeling he does not want to be portrayed as being part of that pack. He wants to be the godfather....

If you were offended by that one, I wouldn't suggest streaming show episodes from the CW's website.

I hope the concerned parent is still on this chat. On the other hand, I'm' doubting that person's teenaged sons are watching too much CW...

YES! I feel as though the writer's of SMASH are making it all to obvious we need to root for the mid-western girl...but I don't wanna. McPhee was never my favorite on idol, all her woodenness and the girl seems to be emotionless. And on SMASH she is even more insufferable. I liked Ivy but boy are they making it hard for viewers to back her as Ms. Monroe now.

Too bad they're going in this direction -- because McPhee definitely can't carry this show... hope there's a chance for a mid-course correction...

What's coming up on "Masterpiece" post-Downton that's worth watching? More "Sherlock Holmes" with Bandersnatch Cummerbund, more "Inspector Lewis"? What else to tide me over till DA III?

It is not nice to double over in laughter a TV columnist who is deliriously tired after three consecutive nights recapping two hour "Idol" shows with talk of  "Bandersnatch Cummberbund"... having nearly choked laughing I will now answer your question: Yes, there is more Benedict Cumberbatch in "Sherlock" coming up, but only a couple epsiodes because he's now a very big star having been cast in JJ Abram's next "Star Trek" movie. Also coming up: the bajillionth re-make of "Great Expectations" only this one is with a twist -- Pip is MUCH prettier than Estella!

They just need to make him permanent host fo the Oscars. I forget what it was he hosted- I think the Tonys adn something else- but he has charisma and charm. Lock him in. Give him Seacrest/Idol $$ and be done with it.

He would also be great but the academy is not going to go for it because they've got this thing about only film people hosting their trophy show, unless their name is Jon Stewart -- which is silly because Johnny Carson did it so well for so many years. And ABC's not going to go to bat for him because he's not on one of their shows. I'm hoping they ram Jimmy Kimmel down their throats on the strength of his post-Oscar show homage to movies.. It was terrific....

I missed last week's episode and find that...I just don't care. Am I a bad person for losing interest in a show that quickly? Or am I just blinded by the fact that Community and Mad Men and Game of Thrones are coming back and compared to those shows, The Walking Dead is...yeah, I just answered my own question.

you're welcome.

Ivy needs to stop sleeping with the director. That is messing with her head. And she has more than enough talent to play that game. I don't like that guy, he thinks too much of himself. Everyone on this show does, but him more so!

You know they're not real people, right? They're make believe characters....but I take your point that shagging the boss is complicated. Important life lesson....

Only choice is NPH!

yes, I'm hearing from many members of his fan club.. Where are Jimmy Kimmel fans when I need them?

And so are Modern Family, 30 Rock, and COMMUNITY, which is coming back on March 15th! Tell me Lisa, do you hate us Community fanatics?

Not at all. I love people who love television...

Indeed he should not mess with it. That's like expecting David Mamet to start writing drawing room comedies.

Yes, if they want non-Sipowicz dialogue they should hire Aaron Sorkin, right?

Actually, Scarlett Johansson's twin brother is named Hunter. (Oh great, now this'll show up in my Google history!).

I am learning so much on this chat. Sadly, it's about Scarlett Johansson.. Notice how I always get the two "s's" in her last name right?

Totally true. (And it's Nesmith.) He was able to work on his own music, and produce others', but he didn't have to do keep doing Monkees stuff to make money.

HOW did she invent white-out. I've always wondered how someone invented that stuff....

Watching the first season of 'Mad Men' set in 1960, you see that 1960 is way more like the Fifties then the counter-culture world of the Sixties.  So bit worried seeing this cast interview for Season Three of 'Downton Abbey' since they kept talking about Jazz and Roaring Twenties when 1920 (similar to 1960) isn't really that much like the Twenties we imagine.

Fortunately the cast did not write the series which I think, so far, has been getting props for historical accuracy. Or did I just dream that?

Who wants to bet it ends up looking like "Ugly Betty" with better period-piece costuming?

Not me. I'm guessing it looks liek a biopic of the Vanderbilts or the Roosevelts, or something...

Okay, I'm in. Kimmel has grown on me over the years, Hollywood stars seem to love him (even Oprah loves him now!), and the trailer for "Movie: The Movie" was brilliant.

"Movie: the Movie" is brilliant...

The only and clear choice to host the Oscars is Jimmy Kimmel!

Thank you! I think I need to quit while I'm ahead... thanks for joining me. Enjoy your weekend and hope to chat with you next week...

In This Chat
Lisa de Moraes
Pulitzer Prize winner, Peabody recipient, Medal of Freedom honoree -- Lisa de Moraes is none of these, but she is an authority on the bad direction, over-acting, and muddled plot lines being played out in the TV industry's executive suites. de Moraes worked for a decade as the television editor at The Hollywood Reporter, the entertainment industry trade paper, where she was routinely on the receiving end of more shouting phone calls from TV suits than Paula Abdul's manager.

When she upgraded to The Washington Post in 1998, a well-known executive producer called to suggest she have someone else start her car, but her trenchant writing (and refusal to use words like "trenchant") earned her the following praise from the brilliant, handsome media observer at Slate: "She writes like a wicked bitch." Wikipedia has called her "a noted television columnist," but they're often unreliable. It's pronounced "deh more ICE."

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